In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, and in just over six months’ time, Midland’s newest non-profit, Midland Inspires, has brought together a community of more than 100 women seeking to positively transform lives in Midland County, Texas, through high-impact, inspirational, and lifelong giving. The organization will award a $100,000 grant each year to a worthy nonprofit that addresses critical social needs in Midland County.

Describing the membership as “energized,” board member Jonna Smoot said Midland Inspires has gathered the community’s most committed and caring women to award one self-funded, $100,000 transformational grant each year to one of Midland’s most worthy causes.

“The reason I joined Midland Inspires is because I really do feel that our Midland community is inspiring,” Smoot remarked. “Anything to enhance and celebrate that is something with which I always want to be involved. I cannot wait to see how Midland immediately and ultimately benefits from their involvement with Midland Inspires. It’s an honor to belong to such a well-positioned, well-intended, and dynamic organization—2021 is going to be very inspiring.”

Midland Inspires was founded by long-time friends Lisa Fielder and Brenda Harrison. Frustrated that many of Midland’s citizens struggle even during economic boom times, the two women discussed the need for meaningful, measurable, permanent solutions to Midland’s social challenges. The petroleum industry downturn, followed by the novel coronavirus pandemic and shutdown, underscored the urgency and immediate need for innovative philanthropy.

Fielder first came to know about “collective” grantmaking when a nonprofit she led received a grant from a similar organization in Austin. Now a nine-year member of that Austin philanthropy, Fielder brings experience to Midland Inspires from all sides of the process: grant applicant, grant recipient, and participant in the grantmaking process.

Brenda Harrison has supported Midland’s nonprofit community for two decades as a fundraiser, volunteer, board member, and philanthropist. She brings community knowledge, relationships, philanthropic experience, and personal credibility to the organization. Harrison leads Midland Inspires as the organization’s President.

In the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, Fielder and Harrison began recruiting members in July 2020. And, despite a serious risk of contagion, the Midland community responded: In just over six months, more than 100 of the city’s most caring and committed women joined the organization, each contributing $1,250.00 towards Midland Inspires’ pooled grant fund. “Our members want to make a real difference in our community,” says Ms. Harrison. “They want to learn about Midland’s greatest needs, to learn about the nonprofits that meet those needs, and to see real progress fixing the underlying problems.”

In fact, women’s response to the idea of Midland Inspires was so enthusiastic that Fielder and Harrison coined a “secret word” to describe the quickly-growing cohort; they quietly refer to Midland Inspires members as #Philanthrobabes.

In developing a grantmaking strategy, Midland Inspires worked to recognize and respond to the deepest needs of Midland’s nonprofits. Similar collective philanthropies, for instance, limit funding to new programs proposed by individual nonprofits—but Midland Inspires will accept individual or collaborative proposals to fund a program and/or strengthen administrative capacity. Moreover, nonprofits may expend 20 percent ($20,000) of each grant award without restriction.

A secondary goal of the organization is to lead women to become informed philanthropists. More than half of Midland Inspires’ members, participating in the 2021 grant review process, will be carefully trained to evaluate proposals for credibility, capability, commitment, feasibility, and significance.

Midland Inspires will award its first $100,000 grant in July 2021 to an outstanding local nonprofit that proposes to address a critical social need in one of three categories: Education (enhancing education and learning); Family (enhancing the lives of children and families) or Health and Well-being (positively impacting people’s physical or mental health). Applications will be solicited and evaluated from February through June 2021, and the $100,000 grantee will be selected in July 2021 by simple majority vote of Midland Inspires members.

Midland Inspires welcomes inquiries from all women who seek to enhance lives in Midland County. Please visit the organization’s website, www.midlandinspires.org, for more information about the organization and its grantmaking process.

Midland Inspires along offers corporate and individual donation opportunities along with specific event and training sponsorship opportunities. Inquire at info@midlandinspires.org for more information. Sponsorships to their highly-anticipated Annual Meeting / Grant Recipient Event on July 12, 2021, are anticipated to sell out. Reach them by email at info@midlandinspires.org.

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